Waste crime costs millions
We all think, “Ha, that’s Karma!” when we see news stories of people getting stuck trying to steal from textiles banks or laugh at bizarre and obscure ways people have fly-tipped their waste. But do we ever think of the implications of these activities?
The best estimate calculates that fly-tipping costs the UK economy £187 million per year and all waste crimes combined cost £568 million per year (ESAET). When you see figures like this you realise it is no laughing matter for those involved.
So what are the other activities that make up waste crime? Well, it includes the following:
- Sites operating without any permit and accepting or treating material their permits don’t cover; exporting waste illegally
- Tax evasion where the wrong EWC (European Waste Classification) codes are used or declaring landfill at the lower rate rather than the standard deliberately.
As waste producers you have the task of trying to keep on top of your waste all the way through to when it is disposed. You must also be able to trust that your contractors are doing what they say they are going to do with your waste.
Repercussions of waste crime activities
Now we know what waste crime is and the estimated costs to the UK, many of you will ask what is the likelihood of this happening to me and what are the repercussions?
According to the Right Waste Right Place campaign 56% of UK companies are not completely compliant with Duty of Care and surrounding regulations. Scotland and Wales regulators have been given new powers and the EA have received extra funds in previous spending reviews with £20 million in the last review. So the likelihood of being caught is real.
The repercussions vary based on the activity; organisations found guilty of waste management crimes sent to the Magistrates Court can receive fines up to £50,000 and individuals involved can be sentenced to six months imprisonment per charge. In the Crown Court, fines are unlimited and individuals can be sentenced to up to five years imprisonment per charge. You may also be required to pay back the profits made as a result of the criminal activities. Local authorities can issue fixed penalty notices for small insistences of fly-tipping. Lastly Civil Sanctions can be raised against breaches of Environmental Permitting Regulations.
The other side to consider is the reputational risk and the damages that this can entail; news articles about waste crime prosecutions seem to be in the industry news almost every week and the national news every month. In the last few weeks we’ve had four or five articles a week including Civil Sanctions Enforcement Undertaking fines.
How do you make sure your company doesn’t get caught up in waste crime?
By now you’re probably thinking what do I need to do to protect my company? There are three things you can do.
- Know the regulations that affect you and have a process to keep up-to-date with them; many companies use Legal Registers.
- Have a document control system to store all your Waste Transfer Notes, Consignment Notes, Waste Carrier licences, any permits and exemptions for your waste sites.
- Create an open relationship with your waste contractors; they have their own duty of care responsibilities. This open relationship should allow you to have a good auditing process in place so you know where your waste goes. Reputable contractors will want to help you!
Still confused about what your responsibilities, we have Duty of Care guidance to get you started. Or join us for one of our seminars and webinars covering waste compliance and waste management running throughout the year.